Heart Health Awareness: A look at the different types of heart attacks
Cardiologist Dr. Michael Babcock explains symptoms of different types of heart attacks and ways to prevent one
Did you know there are different types of heart attacks? By determining what type of heart attack a patient is experiencing, healthcare provides can offer the best course of treatment to try to limit long-term disability and maybe even death.
A heart attack, also called myocardial infarction, occurs when one or more areas of the heart muscle don’t get enough oxygen. Blood flow brings oxygen to the heart. What causes a disruption in blood flow and lack of oxygen can help determine the type of heart attack and treatment options.
There are five different types of myocardial infarction, explains Dr. Michael Babcock, cardiologist with Cardiology Associates of Savannah and director of the Chest Pain Center at The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph’s/Candler.
- Type 1: Plaque buildup ruptures, causing a blockage of blood flow to the heart. This is typically what people think of when they think of a heart attack.
- Type 2: Another critical illness, such as sepsis, shock, bleeding or pulmonary embolism, causes considerable demand on an otherwise normal heart, leading to tissue damage.
- Type 3: A heart attack manifests itself as sudden cardiac arrest, as shown on an EKG, but not confirmed by blood work.
- Type 4: A heart attack occurs after open heart surgery.
- Type 5: A heart attack occurs after a stent procedure.
The most common type of heart attack is type 1, Dr. Babcock says. Type 1, along with type 3, which are likely related, are the most deadly.
“This is due to a blood vessel potentially being completely blocked off,” Dr. Babcock says. “If action is not taken quickly then all cardiac tissue downstream of this blockage begins to die. These effects may be permanent and can lead to congestive heart failure and lifelong disability. The most serious consequence can be cardiac arrest and death.”
Unlike type 1 and 3 heart attacks, a type 2 heart attack can occur even if there is moderate or no plaque involved, Dr. Babcock says. Instead, the heart attack is the result of increased strain on the heart muscle rather than blood supply.
While most people aren’t aware of the different types of heart attacks, you can rest assure the medical community, including primary care doctors, emergency room providers and cardiologists, are well aware of the different causes and the best therapies to treat them, Dr. Babcock says.
What the public can do is be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack, get help immediately and take steps to try to prevent a heart attack.
Symptoms of a heart attack
There are symptoms that are common to different types of heart attacks. These can include:
- Sudden onset chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulders, neck, arms or jaw
The severity of these symptoms may vary, Dr. Babcock says. Also, women can experience different heart attack symptoms than men such as severe fatigue, indigestion, nausea and vomiting and a feeling of lightheadedness. Men may experience an irregular or rapid heartbeat, stomach discomfort, dizziness and cold sweats.
“It is of the utmost importance to understand the symptoms of a heart attack as the effects can come on suddenly, and if not treated quickly, can have lifelong effects,” Dr. Babcock says. “It’s also important to be aware of the symptoms of those around us and within our home and community as failure to react to these symptoms could be fatal. Early activation of our emergency medical services and utilization of 9-1-1 is critical in prompt treatment of heart attack patients.”
If you experience any symptoms that may be related to a heart attack or think someone else is, call 9-1-1 immediately.
There are many actions you can take now to try to prevent any type of heart attack. This includes:
- Follow a heart healthy diet
- Keep blood pressure under control
- Keep cholesterol under control
- Avoid tobacco products
- Exercise regularly
- Get a routine physical
“Stay active and pay attention to your body. Any symptoms should be addressed with either your primary care provider or a cardiologist,” Dr. Babcock advises. “If symptoms are severe or there is a sudden change in symptoms then more urgent evaluation should be obtained. We have amazing emergency medical services and emergency department providers available to you in our community and at the Heart Hospital at St. Joseph’s Hospital.”